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Text – Zechariah 10
Zechariah 10 is a NEAT chapter, it tells us all sorts of great things about God, that he is the God of nature, he is the God who strengthens armies in righteousness, he is the God from whom all good things flow, he is the God who will win a complete victory at the end of time, and he is the Good Shepherd. The first thing I want to look at though, which is certainly not the main thrust of Zechariah’s message, but which is hugely important for your life is a tangential lesson from verse 1.
Zechariah 10:1 Ask rain from the LORD in the season of the spring rain, from the LORD who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field.
I love every Bible verse, but recently this has become my favorite, because it rocked my world. Look at it, when are we supposed to ask for rain from God? In the season of rain. Now, God is able to do things outside of the order in which he has decided to work, he can send rain in the middle of a desert in the dry season if he wants to, but he has structured the world in a way which we can trust and rely on a system of reliability. This is a miracle in itself,
Matthew 5:45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
It is a miracle every time it rains, even when we’re expecting rain, this is a blessing from God. It reminded me of another verse which is really taking us on a rabbit trail, but I think it’s totally worth reading,
Hebrews 3:12-13 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called "today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
There is a season given to us for every thing we do. As long as we live in a sinful world we must be killing sin, seeking righteousness, trusting Christ, and watching our brothers and sisters to ensure they are doing the same. Someday I’d like to do a study of Ecclesiastes 3 which talks a lot more about this. But the true reason I wanted to look at this is to exhort you all towards a season which comes all too early in most people’s lives, the season of dating and marriage. At 12, 13, 14 you shouldn’t be seeking boyfriends and girlfriends; someone to love, to kiss, to be for all intents and purposes married to, because at your age you are a ways off from expressing your love in the proper marriage covenant. We ought to pray for godly husbands and wives, yes, but in the season that this is appropriate, not a moment before.
Proverbs 6:27-28 Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?
So please at least think on this topic, that we may have perfectly right desires which are made wrong by the timing. While this isn’t remotely Zechariah’s point here, I would like to encourage you as you pray to consider if your prayer is keeping with the will of God. Can God do miracles outside of his normal timing? Absolutely, that’s one of the ways we really recognize it’s a miracle. For example, when Lazarus died, his sister knew he would be resurrected on the final day when everyone is resurrected, the righteous to eternal life and the wicked to eternal death, but Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” And he raised Lazarus and showed that he is the Sovereign of history and nature; he is not subjected to history nor nature.
Song of Solomon 2:7 Young women of Jerusalem, I charge you, by the gazelles and the wild does of the field: do not stir up or awaken love until the appropriate time.
So all that to say, there is a time and a season for everything under heaven. I adjure you not to awaken love before its season, that you would date only for the purpose of marriage, and count every act of love as sacred within that covenant, everything from holding hands to kissing to adequately covering yourself from everyone but your future spouse. I know I speak about this fairly often, and as soon as you get the message, then I’ll talk about it less frequently.
So let’s get to Zechariah, today we’re going to look at some wicked leaders, some false shepherds, and we’ll look at our true Shepherd, who is Christ. Chapter 10 and 11 of Zechariah are one complete thought, but they teach different lessons. Really quick though, we need to know from Zechariah 11 that the so-called shepherds of Israel were only in their positions for the money, they would sell their sheep for slaughter if it meant turning a profit.
We see this rampant in Christianity today, people so greedy that they go so far as to tell their audiences to send in their last bit of money so that they can show God how strong their faith really is, when in reality the leaders really only want a new jet-airplane or house. One of the craziest things I run into is false-teachers who use the very passage against them for their gain. For example, 1 Corinthians 14 is totally against speaking in gibberish, but gibberish speakers quote it frequently to justify themselves in their deep things of Satan. Here in Zechariah it speaks of the "latter rain" and some false teachers have used this passage and others like it to say there was a first "rain" of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, then a drought, and that they are now receiving the second "rain" of the Holy Spirit today. This is utterly untrue because the Holy Spirit was promised to be with us always. These will tell you basically anything in order to get your money. This is forever one of my greatest blessings to be unpaid because it utterly removes this temptation from my life.
Zechariah 10:1-11:3 Ask rain from the LORD in the season of the spring rain, from the LORD who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field. For the household gods utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation. Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd. "My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the LORD of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them like his majestic steed in battle. From him shall come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler— all of them together. They shall be like mighty men in battle, trampling the foe in the mud of the streets; they shall fight because the LORD is with them, and they shall put to shame the riders on horses. "I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back because I have compassion on them, and they shall be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the LORD their God and I will answer them. Then Ephraim shall become like a mighty warrior, and their hearts shall be glad as with wine. Their children shall see it and be glad; their hearts shall rejoice in the LORD. "I will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as they were before. Though I scattered them among the nations, yet in far countries they shall remember me, and with their children they shall live and return. I will bring them home from the land of Egypt, and gather them from Assyria, and I will bring them to the land of Gilead and to Lebanon, till there is no room for them. He shall pass through the sea of troubles and strike down the waves of the sea, and all the depths of the Nile shall be dried up. The pride of Assyria shall be laid low, and the scepter of Egypt shall depart. I will make them strong in the LORD, and they shall walk in his name," declares the LORD. Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars! Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen, for the glorious trees are ruined! Wail, oaks of Bashan, for the thick forest has been felled! The sound of the wail of the shepherds, for their glory is ruined! The sound of the roar of the lions, for the thicket of the Jordan is ruined!
We see first and foremost that God is the true God, the God of nature, the God of providence, the sustaining God. We ought to frequently realize that. We may say, “This morning the sun rose because the sun always rises.” Well really if it weren’t for God’s holding the universe together the sun wouldn’t rise. Centrifugal force would cause it to go zinging out into space and we’d never see it again.
There are many substitutes for God, but only one true God. Check out verse 2,
v.2 For the household gods utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation.
Household gods are personal little figurines or methods of receiving supernatural revelation. These can be as simple as statues or as complex as astrology and horoscopes, or as seemingly innocent as a television. Zechariah didn’t have a television, but this very easily can fit into the place of a household god for us, as The View or Glee or Oprah or Glenn Beck try to form our theology into something that is radically different from true theology.
The false prophets make up revelation and present a god who really is of no account and isn’t able to save. This god won’t send people to Hell, but only because he can’t because he doesn’t exist, and he can’t save anyone for the same reason. Let me give you a controversial example, recently with all of the homosexual suicides several politically and financially successful homosexuals put out public statements that life for homosexuals is getting better and therefore troubled homosexuals should hold on. This seems like consolation, until we look at the fact that it is still a horrendous sin against humanity and God and that it is judged both temporally and eternally as hugely unhealthy for a person’s body and soul. True consolation is found in reconciliation to God, sanctification in the Spirit, and total forgiveness and freedom in Christ.
Another example is the empty pursuit of happiness and patriotic duty which we are constantly bombarded with. This is a false consolation, empty of truth and empty of temporal and eternal benefits. I watch it and am extremely angry, and find great consolation in the fact that so is God. We’ll see how he offers true consolation in a few verses, but first,
v.2-3 Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd. "My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the LORD of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them like his majestic steed in battle.
Even though Israel truly did have people acting as pastors (rabbis) and leaders, this verse says they wander and are damaged just as though they had no shepherds. Beloved, there are so many churches in our area that have youth pastors who are none more than adolescent boys who have no desire nor ability to lead their students into truth. There are churches all over the nation that have men overseeing them who care more for their own personal reputation than the spiritual health of their flock. In this passage God still refers to them as shepherds, but Jesus gives us a much more descriptive title for them in John 10.
John 10:12-13 The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and doesn't own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. This happens because he is a hired man and doesn't care about the sheep.
Hirelings are men who look after the flock, but only as much as they can benefit from it. The moment danger approaches they take off leaving the flock to be decimated by enemies. There is an even worse shepherd which we’ll look at in Zechariah 11, who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing (and sometimes in shepherd’s clothing (see 2 Peter 2)).
Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.
I love it that God’s anger is fierce against such men, knowing that I can leave all vengeance up to him and that he is the Sovereign of History who is demonstrating why his Son is the true Shepherd of the sheep, who does care about the sheep, the one who strengthens and equips his flock for the ministry. This is setting up an absolutely fantastic gospel presentation in chapter 13, one which it is so tempting for me to reveal now, but which I will wait a few weeks to show you!
v.4 From him shall come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler—all of them together.
For time’s sake let me just tell you that these are the four major things which Israel needed to be a great nation, they needed a firm foundation, a secure support, mighty weapons, and brave men to act justly and courageously for them. We see that all of these come straight from Christ, apart from him we can do nothing. This is why we sing the song, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…” If it’s good and a blessing, it’s from God.
v.5-7 They shall be like mighty men in battle, trampling the foe in the mud of the streets; they shall fight because the LORD is with them, and they shall put to shame the riders on horses. "I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back because I have compassion on them, and they shall be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the LORD their God and I will answer them. Then Ephraim shall become like a mighty warrior, and their hearts shall be glad as with wine. Their children shall see it and be glad; their hearts shall rejoice in the LORD.
They shall be like great warriors, this is believers in Christ who aren’t out to kill people, but to convert them. If we have a firm foundation in Christ, a hope which secures us against every wind of doctrine, the sword of the Spirit which is the Bible, then we will be equipped and led by God to be great spiritual warriors, destroying every argument and persuading people to trust in Christ and Christ alone.
Now at this point it is tempting to follow a heresy that God saved us because he saw great potential in us, but verse 6 destroys that, stating that God raised us up and equipped us only on his compassion, not because of anything we had done or would do, but that both our salvation and subsequent works are his works in us. One of my new favorite verses is at the end of Colossians 1.
Colossians 1:28-29 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Whose energy? His. Who is working? He is. And we rejoice in this, emboldened, filled not with wine, but with the Holy Spirit. Now it gets extra beautiful, telling us that we have no fear of bad shepherds destroying our eternities if we are in Christ, for we have a much better shepherd,
v.8 "I will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as they were before.”
This whistle is a call to the sheep, it’s either a whistle you make with your lips, or with a reed flute, or a specific vocal call. However it is, the sheep know this call and come. It’s amazing that even as dumb as a sheep is, it is able to know the specific call, even the voice, of its shepherd. However Christ will call, we will hear his voice,
John 10:3-5 The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers."
Christ calls for us, and we go to him and follow him. We see that he has redeemed us, from what we will see in chapter 11, but ultimately it is from sin and the very teeth of the world which desired to devour us. Christ will not lose a single one of his sheep.
v.9-12 Though I scattered them among the nations, yet in far countries they shall remember me, and with their children they shall live and return. I will bring them home from the land of Egypt, and gather them from Assyria, and I will bring them to the land of Gilead and to Lebanon, till there is no room for them. He shall pass through the sea of troubles and strike down the waves of the sea, and all the depths of the Nile shall be dried up. The pride of Assyria shall be laid low, and the scepter of Egypt shall depart. I will make them strong in the LORD, and they shall walk in his name," declares the LORD.
This passage is beautifully poetic, but not especially clear on when nor how it is to be fulfilled. We see that God’s people will be so many as there will not be found room for them just in Israel. This has certainly come true in these days, that every Christian in the world would not fit in Israel, so we are in far off countries remembering God and bearing witness to his truth.
We have the language of him passing through the sea. This is certainly reminiscent of Moses parting the Red Sea, a type for walking through death to life, and possibly we can see here that Christ is prophesied living and dying and living again. The language of striking down the waves of the sea is neat because in Heaven the sea will be smooth as glass, because all strife will have ceased, and there we see in verse 12 that Christ does this by cutting off the wickedness and rule of Israel’s enemies.
Finally, let’s read the first three verses of chapter 11 which will further expand on Christ putting an end to all boasting that is not in him,
v.1-3 Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars! Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen, for the glorious trees are ruined! Wail, oaks of Bashan, for the thick forest has been felled! The sound of the wail of the shepherds, for their glory is ruined! The sound of the roar of the lions, for the thicket of the Jordan is ruined!
We end with what we started with, that the false shepherds are punished and so they wail. Their riches gained through mistreating the flock of God are made nothing. These hirelings flee when danger approaches the flock, they seek only monetary gain. These sins against God’s sheep will be avenged.
So your application, trust wholly in Jesus Christ as your true Shepherd, make sure your leaders and pastors are following him and leading you in his ways, as you grow into leadership positions yourself, be willing to die for your flock, place them at far more value than yourself, refuse to let even a single one be devoured by the world while you still have breath in your lungs. Remember that this is how you were redeemed by your Shepherd, though he was God in every way, he counted you as more valuable than himself and laid down his life for your sake, and if he is willing to die for you, know that he will also equip you to walk in the power of his resurrection.
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.